FRIGHTENING POTENTIAL: Victoria Police is ramping up efforts to prevent and protect the community from fires which have been recklessly or intentionally lit.

VICTORIA Police is ramping up efforts to prevent and protect the community from fires which have been recklessly or intentionally lit.

The crackdown on arson-related offences coincides with one of the region’s more intense hot spells – with the maximum temperature exceeding 40ºC on numerous occasions over the Christmas/New Year period, with today’s temperature expected to reach 46ºC.

According to Victoria Police statistics, 95 percent of fire-related offences recorded last summer were caused by reckless actions, such as using tools or machinery during a fire danger period or burning off without a permit.

According to the latest Crime Statistics Agency figures, 61 arson-related offences were recorded in Mildura during the 12 months between September 2017 and September 2018.

The offence rate per 100,000 population in this category also rose from 99.9 per 100,000 population to 109.9 per 100,000.

Mildura police Acting Inspector Darron Hulls said the majority of these incidents could be attributed to reckless and negligent behaviour.

“Looking back at similar times where the weather is this hot, a lot of our arson-related offences come down to reckless or negligent behaviour,” he said. “While we have seen one or two deliberately-lit fires – with those offenders prosecuted – the majority of arson offences are related to those being reckless, or who are simply uninformed about the dangers of what they’re doing.

“When it comes to reckless behaviour, Mildura police take a zero tolerance approach, and will continue to do so this fire danger season.” 

Acting Insp. Hulls said Mildura police will also continue to work closely with its partner agencies, including the CFA, to combat reckless or deliberately lit fires.

“Community safety is paramount as we move into the fire danger period and more days of total fire ban,” he said. “Part of our job is to get that messaging out there so people are aware of what they should or shouldn’t be doing on these days.

“Our partner agencies will also continue patrolling the riverfront and campsites, and we encourage those heading out camping or burning off to look at conditions and behave accordingly.

“Even a small fire in a backyard could be an issue, especially when a change in weather can occur so quickly.”

Victoria Police across the State will have a heightened focus over summer under a new framework set to boost the ability to prevent, detect and respond to fires.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Grainger said police will use an intelligence-led approach to proactively monitor high risk areas in an effort to stop risky behaviour before it has devastating consequences.

“Year on year police see far too many people taking part in careless and reckless behaviour that results in fires during the summer period,” he said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of their activities during fire danger periods, otherwise your actions could result in the cause of a bushfire.”

Those found guilty of recklessly or intentionally causing a bushfire face penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment. Lighting a fire on a total fire ban day can also attract a fine of around $37,000 or up to two years in jail.

Anyone who witnesses suspicious behaviour should call Triple Zero (000) while anyone with any information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report to www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.